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The night my husband and I were supposed to take the hospital’s breastfeeding class, I wasn’t feeling well. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and felt like I was coming down with a cold. So, we skipped it.
24 hours later — I was holding my first-born, baby boy in my arms.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve taken the breastfeeding class. From the start, I had trouble breastfeeding Julian. We had to use a nipple shield, and Julian constantly fell asleep at the breast. I was told to pump and supplement, so we started on bottles almost immediately. Bottles were much easier than breastfeeding, which literally had me sitting at the couch for hours on end. (Looking back, I really should’ve embraced those long hours full of E! and Twilight marathons!)
When I went back to work at 12 weeks postpartum, it was the beginning of the end. I became very depressed, was extremely stressed out and was unable to pump regularly at work. By the time I made the life-changing decision to stay home full-time, Julian was 6 months old — and my supply had basically dwindled to nothing, so we started formula.
This whole process was completely devastating. So much so, that when I gave birth to Mary a year and a half later, I didn’t even attempt to breastfeed.
I could say I regret this — but, I don’t. Because I didn’t breastfeed, my period came back at 6 weeks postpartum, more regular than ever. And a few months later, we were happily surprised to find out I was pregnant again.
This time around, I was determined to breastfeed. I promised myself I would do everything I could to be successful at breastfeeding. And, here I am, with a healthy, amazing, still-very-much-breastfeeding 19-month old. I have never felt more proud of anything I’ve done. I love, love, love breastfeeding. Here’s what I’ve done to make breastfeeding work for us.
I set realistic expectations
With Julian, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I thought I was doing something wrong when he wanted to feed all afternoon. I blamed myself when he’d cry afterwards, assuming he hadn’t gotten enough from me. I thought I had to pump, offer bottles, supplement, etc.
This time around, I knew what to expect. When the postpartum anxiety started after Harvey’s birth, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my OB. I set up several breastfeeding “stations” with burp cloths, nursing pads, water bottles and phone chargers. I decided not to pump or do bottles, but practice on-demand feeding. And I told myself I could do it.
And a newborn wanting to feed for hours? Totally normal. Enjoy those Netflix marathons while you can!
I asked for help
When Harvey’s first teeth came in around 9 months, he was in a lot of pain. And, nothing seemed to soothe him like my nipple. Ouch.
Within a week of this development, I had a big, painful blister on my left side. It was so painful, I could barely get dressed. My mom told me she’d weaned my brothers and me once we’d gotten teeth. I didn’t want to do that, so I called my hospital’s Lactation Hotline and spent an hour talking with a nurse. She advised me to ice it, and keep nursing on that side (alternatively, she said I could pump if nursing was too painful). She said it might pop while H was nursing — but that was ok. (It did pop — and would have been very alarming had I not known what to expect.)
I’m so glad I called the Lactation Consultant. She was so helpful and positive about breastfeeding, and talking to her gave me the affirmation and support I needed to keep going. I’m convinced that conversation was a turning point in my breastfeeding journey, and a major reason for my still breastfeeding today.
I started co-sleeping
Co-sleeping was a game changer for night feedings. After the first few months, we were on a somewhat predictable schedule with feedings. Harvey would go down for the night in his crib, then wake a few hours later. We purchased a nice co-sleeper for our bedroom, and set it up so I could easily nurse while laying down, then put Harvey to sleep right next to me. We’re still doing this; Harvey wakes once or twice and is back to sleep within 10 minutes. I know he won’t always be sleeping in our room like this, and am truly enjoying these nights while I can.
I went shopping
I’m a private person, so it’s been completely shocking and amazing to me that I’ve become such an advocate for public breastfeeding. I’ve become a discreet Ninja nurser — and the only thing drawing attention to me are my other two rambunctious children.
I credit much of this to the amazing, breastfeeding-friendly clothing I’ve purchased. There are so many stylish, adorable tops for us nursing moms. The top flaps are life-changing, as I don’t have to expose my tummy when I breastfeed Harvey. These pieces aren’t cheap; however, most are also maternity friendly — and we are hoping for one more baby, so they’re essentially an investment. And considering I haven’t purchased anything from my beloved (and expensive) Anthropologie lately, investing in quality nursing tops seems like a fair trade off.
I built a great support system
I love my fellow Daily Mom-ers. We are such a supportive group of moms. Many of the girls here have nursed 2- and 3-year olds; in fact, extended breastfeeding is kind of the norm (however, we are totally supportive of each other no matter how we choose to feed our babies!). Having such a strong example and support network has meant everything to me. Especially because my own family hasn’t been the most encouraging of my extended breastfeeding.
I became a proud, breastfeeding warrior
I love my mom, but she hasn’t been the most supportive with this endeavor. Between advising me to quit once Harvey got teeth, to looking away whenever I nurse, to telling me I’d “get weird looks” for breastfeeding a toddler, I just haven’t been able to count on her for encouragement. It’s been disheartening, to say the least, because breastfeeding Harvey is something I am incredibly proud of.
I tend to take things very personally, so not having that support has been hard. But what I’ve realized is that it’s okay. I’m a mom, and I have to do what I think is best. And I know in my heart, that this is the best thing for Harvey (and there are countless studies and research that support extended breastfeeding). And when my daughter grows up, I will be her strongest advocate, no matter what she decides to do.
I plan on letting Harvey decide when he’s done. I don’t know when that day will be, and I’m taking it one day at a time and savoring these moments. Because of all the things I’ve done in my 31 years, breastfeeding my thriving, happy baby boy is perhaps my proudest accomplishment.
Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?
If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.
Photo credit: Sarah M.